When Tess Watkins was gifted Pixie in August 2017, #Hack1000Miles provided the duo with the perfect incentive for building the mare’s confidence and overcoming napping issues. Tess, a nurse from North Bucks, rehomed Pixie after the mare was flown over from her native Argentina to a polo yard in the UK.

“The main reason for taking part was to achieve the goal of hacking alone. Pixie is an ex-polo pony and like most from a polo background, she prefers company so she was very nappy. I’m not the most confident rider either so the challenge felt like a huge goal,” explained Tess. “Pixie was flown to the UK but didn’t travel well and then became unwell and so her fitness declined.

“Eventually she was diagnosed with Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) and, although she was successfully treated, she was left with asymmetrical muscle atrophy which meant no more polo playing. I saw her advert online straight after it was posted so I went to see her and knew straight away I’d have her.”

Hacking in-hand

Tess started to slowly build their bond and gain the mare’s trust. “I decided to walk her in-hand on every route I intended to hack in order to expose her to as many sights and sounds as possible. We’re based near Stowe National Trust gardens so there were a lot of visitors for her to take in and experience,” said Tess.

“Walking together created a solid bond and Pixie really took comfort in my voice. When I then started to ride I did very short hacks, usually with a friend as a foot soldier in the beginning. I would pick out a specific tree, bush or landmark and aim for that. If it felt good, I would look for another spot to ride to and so on.”

‘She was a wild child’

Since overcoming the napping issues, the pair are have been confidently clocking up their hacking miles together.

“We did around 800 miles in 2020 and 400 in 2021 due to Covid, and we’re at 50 miles since starting in April,” added Tess. “Through hard work and not rushing her, Pixie is now the perfect hacking pony who really does love her new job.”

For other riders struggling with a nappy horse, Tess’ advice is to take everything slowly.

“Take as long as you need to build a bond and confidence. Walk in hand for as long as it takes. Pixie was a wild child when I got her and people thought I was mad, but she’s given me the last laugh now.”

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